High School Sports

Missed opportunties cost Vancleave

 Vancleave shortstop Colton Hipp throws to first after fielding a ground ball, Friday, Apr. 8, 2016.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Vancleave shortstop Colton Hipp throws to first after fielding a ground ball, Friday, Apr. 8, 2016.

VANCLEAVE -Vancleave's second comeback attempt ended with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Sumrall third baseman Devin Sullivan ignored the fence near third and caught Trevor Davis' pop foul for the final out of the game, preserving Sumrall's 10-9 in Class 4A's first round series sweep on Saturday.

Sullivan not only made the defensive play to end the game, but he doubled in Hunter Askew, during the eighth inning. Sullivan went to third on a throwing error in the attempt to prevent Askew from scoring before cross homeplate himself on a balk to give the Bobcats (20-8) a 10-8 lead.

"I knew I had it off the bat," Sullivan said. "I knew I had to make a play on the ball."

Sumrall, who won several state titles in 3A, avoided a third game at home Monday.

"That was a big hit by Sullivan," Bobcats coach Larry Knight said. "He was able to make up for his defense with a key hit. It was a great, great playoff game. We saw about everything that could happen tonight."

Vancleave overcame a 8-0 deficit, forcing extra innings,

"Sumrall is a great baseball team and they don't do a lot of things to beat themselves," said Vancleave coach Daniel Threadgill. "We got behind early 8-0 and made it a game. I can sleep with that performance, with the way we fought and battled to get back into the game."

In the bottom of the eighth, Bobcat pitcher Briar Russell hit Grant Atwood, but got the first out of the inning with a fly to first.

Colby Watson followed with a high fly ball to center. At first it looked like Sumrall centerfielder Dannis Jackson caught the ball and then dropped it making the transition to throw back to the infield with Atwood retreating to first base. However, the second base umpire ruled Jackson dropped the ball. Jackson threw the ball to second to get Atwood for the second out with Watson reaching first on a fielder's choice by the centerfielder.

Colton Hipp singled to load the bases. Bailey Hendon followed with a hard single to left, but only one runner was able to cross the plate, making the score 10-9, and setting up Sullivan's play on Davis' pop foul.

Sullivan's catch ended Vancleave's second comeback. Earlier the Bulldogs (14-11) came back from an eight-run deficit to force extra innings.

Through the top of the fifth, the game was all Sumrall. In the third, Trace Jordan slapped a three-run homer over the rightfield fence to give the Bobcats a 5-0 lead. Jordan added an RBI single in the fifth to plate Jarrod Shuck, who opened the inning with a double. Logan McGrew scored Jordan with the Bobcats second double in the inning and then scored in front of Zane Berry's single to run the score to 8-0 in Sumrall's favor.

The Bulldogs cut the gap to 8-3 on Grant Atwood's two-run double and Nic Brewer's RBI single.

Vancleave continued their comeback in the sixth, taking advantage of three singles and two Sumrall errors, the biggest coming on a two-out overthrow by the Bobcat shortstop on Austin Moen's grounder cutting the Sumrall lead to 8-6.

In the seventh, two hitsbatsmen and a Gavin McKerchie single loaded the bases with one out. A balk scored Brewer to cut the Sumrall lead to 8-7. Henden was intentionally walked to load the bases again and give the Bobcats a force at every base. However, the move failed when Davis walked to force in the game-tying run.

But that would be as close as Vancleave would come to forcing a game three as Shuck struck out the final two batters in the inning, leaving the bases loaded and the game tied at 8-8.

"It's human nature to think that the game is going to be easy after getting an eight-run lead," Knight said. "Baseball is a funny game and momentum can change quickly in a game."

The Bulldogs left 15 batters on base, including the bases loaded in the third, seventh, and eighth innings. Sumrall only left five men on base.

"We couldn't get the timely hit," Threadgill said. "We fought hard to try to pull that game out, but you have to get the timely hit. "We had our chances, but we couldn't scratch a run across."

Shuck picked up the win in relief of Bobcat starter Russell. Russell, who came back into the game in the eighth to relieve Shuck, picked up the save.

"It was a great, gutsy effort," said Knight. "He did a great job of not getting upset when he was taken out of the game earlier and was able to come back for the save. Vancleave did a great job battling and coming back. This was a big playoff series for us. We matured tonight.""

Jordan paced the Bobcats at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs. He also reached on an error. Sullivan was 2-for-5 with a double and RBI.

Hipp, Hendon, and McKerchie each had three hits for the Bulldogs. Atwood added two RBIs for the Bulldogs.